Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Money Can Buy

I had this list of things I was going to write about today, but this afternoon, a single thought got stuck in my brain.

I received some excellent e-mail from you guys about "The Sames" post, and it was basically of two minds. Most of you felt that the big game companies collapsing wouldn't be a bad thing, really, since it would spur innovation if the gorillas weren't around. Fair enough, although I don't think it would be quit that cut and dried.

There was another set of e-mails, though, that led to what I'm writing about today. These e-mails said that Homefront multiplayer was actually much better than single-player mode, and they felt like the game was being unfairly judged because Homefront was primarily designed as a multiplayer game.

That may be true, and it helped drive home just how difficult it is to be in a position where two million copies have to be sold for the game to break even. The multiplayer component of a game might barely even be up (or not even available yet) when pre-release reviews are being written, and the server population is going to be sparse. How can a writer accurately evaluate that part of the game?

I'm guessing that in many cases, they can't, so they concentrate on single-player mode, and for a game with a multiplayer focus, that may not go well at all.

That's a very difficult needle to thread.

Then I wondered how much this game actually cost THQ, and I poked around until I found this article quoting Michael Pachter, who dropped the figure $50 million several times in reference to Homefront's budget.

$50 million? Seriously?

Let's do a comparison of Homefront with Dwarf Fortress, which is, for my money, the deepest game that's ever been made. Donations to Bay 12 Games (Dwarf Fortress) were just over $54,000 last year. I don't know if Tarn and Zach both live off that amount, but let's go up a bit and estimate (entirely for the purpose of discussion) that their combined expenses are $80,000 a year.

Here's perspective: $50 million either funds the development of Homefront, or it funds the development of Dwarf Fortress for six hundred and twenty-five years.

Not including inflation.

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